Observed Effects of Vibrationally Induced Fretting on Bearing–Shaft Systems in Flywheel Energy Storage Systems

Research paper by Miles Skinner, Marc Secanell Gallart, Pierre Mertiny

Indexed on: 26 Apr '18Published on: 25 Apr '18Published in: Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention


Mechanical bearings in a flywheel energy storage system (FESS) may experience unique wear patterns due to the vacuum condition that such systems operate under. The FESS discussed herein uses an aluminum flywheel rotor hub with an integrated shaft and full silicon nitride ceramic bearings. The bearings experienced fretting wear, as is common to many bearing–shaft systems, which eroded the naturally forming oxide layer on the surface of the shaft which was not replaced due to the lack of oxygen. This exposed the soft aluminum surface below creating the opportunity for material transfer between the surfaces and cold welding between components to occur. The existence of fretting and material transfer is demonstrated, and the opportunity for cold welding between components is discussed. The effects of these processes on system components are described. Recommendations to avoid or mitigate fretting and adhesion damage to the system are made for the studied FESS in particular, and, more generally, similar systems operating in vacuum conditions.